Once people in this nation found community through their work or shared faith values, but now they more readily find them in QAnon internet conspiracy theories or marching in anti-vaccination protests - or even by assaulting the Capitol Building.
Attacking the institutions and scientific advances that were created to save us is no longer seen as insanity in America, in some places it has become patriotism.
We seem to be living in another high-water age of human ignorance. Potentially it could even be the cusp of a second Dark Age, arriving just when science and solidarity are needed most.
The proof is everywhere we look. Religion and religious leaders have let us down so badly and so often than millions of us have retreated into lunatic online conspiracy theories that promote a different kind of spiritual unity, one that has real-world political aims to replace all the heavenly ones.
Florida is currently giving us a sneak peek of what America may look like in 2050. At a time when the sunshine state desperately needs metaphorical fire fighters, it's elected officials are instead behaving like arsonists.
With every hospital bed there being filled up by mostly unvaccinated Covid-19 patients, state Governor Ron DeSantis is threatening to cut the funding of any school that imposes a mask ordinance to help keep its students safe.
When reality gives way to magical thinking like this, it's because the world you want to live in has become more important than the world in which you actually live.
DeSantis now reflexively opposes everything that the opposition party supports, and that apparently includes the right to protect yourself from a deadly virus.
But willful ignorance is more deadly than actual ignorance because it is more calculated. DeSantis, who is vaccinated, knows the majority of his most ardent supporters will bristle at even the suggestion that they should do likewise, so he plays to their prejudices without placing himself in their peril.
It amazes me that a Governor can be this cynical, as over 100,000 people a week become infected in his own state, without severe and instant political consequences.
At what point does the proof of your own eyes overtake the resentment in your own heart? Well, now we are finding out in real-time as thousands watch their relatives needlessly sicken and die.
The more DeSantis doubles down on his rapidly sickening state, the more conservatives flock to him as a standard-bearer of their anti-Biden cause. Forgoing masks and vaccinations in favor of their idea of freedom, they absurdly claim it is the undocumented that are behind all the local Covid spikes, but not their own lamentable decisions to spread infection through their own poor life choices.
Besides, a pandemic is not a thing that a governor can choose to “move on” from because it is bad for business or because it complicates his or her political agenda. You can't just say enough and walk away and think that settles it, as DeSantis has tried to. Pandemics don't care who you voted for or what you think.
Pandemics are only ended by science working in tandem with public health efforts, requiring participation, not rejection. Claiming we must “learn to live” with a virus that only wants to find unprotected hosts, mutate, and find new ways to kill us, is as insane as telling someone whose house is burning down that sadly it's God's will.
In New York City we have our own troubles, but a climate of anti-science hysteria isn't one of them. Instead, we seem to live in a new age of public incivility here. You can feel and literally see the pre and post-pandemic changes here when you take a walk.
First, there are the unprecedented number of empty apartments, left behind by renters who literally fled when the first lockdown arrived. Then there are the emboldened louts who now light up their joints on the subway cars with impunity, or who defy public mask ordinances and want to harass or even attack those who challenge them about it, or there are the bands of marauding bike groups that cycle through the streets like extras from a Road Warrior movie, hoping to harass and harm passers-by for kicks.
We have a federal mandate to ensure masks are worn on public transport but few beat cops around to ticket and enforce them. When you actually do see a team of officers at the station now they almost routinely forgo wearing masks themselves.
Why are law enforcement officials so convinced they are not subject to the same laws and conditions that everyone else is? How did this anti-mask defiance start within the city police force, and what chance do they have of public enforcement if so many of them refuse to mask up themselves?
Here’s more NYPD cops not wearing masks on a train car where everyone else is masked pic.twitter.com/lyuHy6frmX— Tim Donnelly (@timdonnelly) August 11, 2021
When science takes a back seat to your politics, the scientific consensus is often replaced by your prejudices. That's where we are now, in an age where your grandparents on Facebook confidently claim they know more about Covid-19 than virologists and epidemiologists.
But just as climate change doesn't care who you voted for, because it is an indisputable global fact, a deadly virus doesn't care what you personally think of it either.
So as you wade through waist-high water to get out of a subway station or get infected with a deadly virus you thought didn't really exist, you won't have the luxury of saying I'm not ready for this. But incredibly that is what almost half the country is currently doing.
And a growing tide of human ignorance is threatening to break over us all.